Yesterday morning I headed down to Whickham village centre to help run a street stall with colleagues. We were collecting signatures on petitions opposing new parking charges plans for the village and proposals to take away some of our flower beds. In essence, it is the sort of thing that local politics is all about. But given the general climate about politicians at the moment, we gathered with a sense of trepidation. Just how were people going to respond to us?
Were people going to be angry, treat us with a "plague on all your houses" approach or be interested in what the petitions were about. As we started to gather signatures, I noticed we were all defensively making jokes to constituents about signing cheques for 2nd homes, clearing moats and buying manure and duck houses. People laughed and then talked about the issues on which we were collecting signatures. Very quickly, we discovered people were interested in local concerns and our battles for better facilities. And whilst people are hopping mad about some of the unforgivable expenses stories, for them, it was business as usual for local politics.
We now have 500 signatures on the petition opposing the new parking charges plan.
Afterwards, I went down to the village of Ryton where the Hirings (the annual fair) was on. I met up with more of my colleagues were doing a roaring trade in tombola tickets on the Lib Dem stall. Local politics, local campaigning, local fund raising, all still happening. Here in Gateshead at least, normal activities continue, despite the best efforts of Expensesgate to get in the way.